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In Longville, retired librarian prepared for solo women's march. Instead, she got company

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Demonstrators march in Longville
Demonstrators march in Longville, Minn., on Saturday as part of the women's marches worldwide. Organizer Michelle Barton originally thought she'd be the lone marcher in the conservative, rural town.
Logan Barton | Courtesy of Michelle Barton

 Updated: Jan. 21, 4:45 p.m. | Posted: Jan. 20, 2:20 p.m.

Michelle Barton wishes she could be part of a big women's march on Saturday, but she lives in the tiny town of Longville, Minn. 

"I thought OK, I'll just see what happens if I create my own march," she said. "It was kind of a lark."

Barton went to the Women's March website and signed up to host her own. She got out some tagboard and markers.

"My hope was that some people might join me," she said. "I have a very active imagination, so my worst case scenario was people driving by and taking pot shots at me."

Barton and her family moved from Denver to Minnesota in June, after her husband had a series of strokes and had to stop working. The cost of living in Longville is lower. 

But the transition to living in a conservative rural town of less than 200 hasn't been easy.   

Moving in the middle of a contentious election didn't help. She overheard people in local businesses talking politics. Mostly they supported President Donald Trump, who won Cass County. 

Once she saw a guy wearing a T-shirt with an AK-47 on it. "It said, 'Over my dead body,'" she recalled. "That's a little bit of a culture shock for us."

Demonstrators march in Longville
Demonstrators march in Longville on Saturday as part of the women's marches worldwide.
Logan Barton | Courtesy of Michelle Barton

Barton retired from the Denver library system and she spends her days caring for her husband. She can't leave him alone long enough to drive to the closest women's marches in Bemidji and Fargo. 

In the last six months, she's been trying to understand her new surroundings like any good librarian would, with books. 

"Of course I read 'Hillbilly Elegy.'" she said. "That's extremely popular right now, and it's very interesting."

She hopes a march, even a very small one, might open up a conversation about equality. 

Until very recently, Barton thought she'd be marching alone. She was fine with that, but a few days ago a total stranger saw her event on Facebook and said she'd stop by with her sister on their way through town. 

But on Saturday, 66 people from Longville and nearby towns showed up to walk with Barton.

Lori Burks signed up via the website Friday night, and expected to be one of two marchers. When Burks got there, she said people looked at each other, amazed at the turnout in the area notorious for being quiet in the winter. 

The marchers carried signs reading, "Love," and "Bridges, not walls."